The Bashkansky family Chess Travel blog

The Bashkansky family Chess Travel blog: parents Guy and Ludmila with children NM Ethan and WIM Naomi

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

per aspera ad astra

Naomi qualified for the World Youth!

per Portland ad Mondial

A Latin phrase “per aspera ad astra” means "Through hardships to the stars".  In our case, it should be “per Portland ad Mondial”.  

To qualify for the World Youth Chess Championship (Mondial) Naomi needed to reach USCF rating 1500 before March 31, 2012.  On March 16 she was just 10 rating points short of that goal.  This is after “the marathon sprint”, a crazy run of successful tournaments that increased her rating from 1150 to 1490 in just 3 months.

But the higher is the rating, the harder it becomes to increase.  Opponents become stronger, and a single loss can dash all hopes to reach 1500.

The 2012 Spring Open chess tournament in Portland presented an opportunity to skim those critical remaining 10 rating points from unsuspecting Oregonians.

Portland Chess Club

After our recent 2500 miles to San Diego and back, the mere 4 hour drive to Portland would feel like almost nothing, if not for the inescapable rush hour traffic here.  Thank DOT for HOV lanes!

Portland Chess Club shares the nerdy overcrowded look and feel with other chess clubs in the Northwest.  It’s not the outside appearance that counts here, but the inside of the players heads.

Posters on the walls of Portland Chess Club:

We stayed in the closest motel, just 1 minute driving or 5 minutes walking.  This proved to be importantly useful, since the kids could not reach us by phone (Oregon mobile coverage can be spotty).  So they just walked together to the room after a game.

Weird Portlandia

Or maybe we just missed the kids’ Google Voice message beep with all that noise at Portland Saturday Market:
See the first music band video in that album (pos. 52 of 82), named “Broke & Irish” -- it was St Patrick’s Day.

Sample craft art from that market:

The “Keep Portland weird” slogan looks strangely appropriate behind this hour-long line for Voodoo Doughnuts, with TV coverage:

ad astra

Naomi played very well against adult opponents with ratings near 1600.  She hasn't lost and even won.  This brought her the coveted additional 26 points, to USCF rating 1516!  

It means we're going to the World Youth Championship again, in Maribor, Slovenia this November.

We are a full-blown family sports team now: Luda is the manager; Naomi and Ethan are the players; Guy is the sponsor, driver, travel agent and reporter. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Marathon Sprint

Qualifying for the World Youth Championship - again!


Last November Naomi played at the 2011 World Youth Championships in Brazil, in the 8 year girls category.   There she realized that playing slowly and methodically is the way to win at the World Championship level.  After we came back, the obvious next goal has become to qualify for the 2012 World Youth Championships in Maribor, Slovenia this November.  However now Naomi has to compete in the 10 year old girls category, while she herself is still only 8 year old.  To qualify, she needs to reach rating 1500 before March 31, 2012.

The Marathon Sprint

Last December her rating went down to just 1150, after a few local tournaments, where many players are underrated.  The goal of reaching 1500 in only 3 months seemed almost unattainable.  However, Naomi is a fighter!

  • At the Las Vegas tournament (read it) she won the first place and reached rating 1296.  
  • At the San Diego tournament (read it) she has pushed up to 1332.
  • On March 2-5 Naomi flew with Luda to Saratoga Springs, NY for the NY State Scholastics and reached 1434.
  • On March 9-12 they both flew again, to Agoura Hills, CA, got 3 points out of 5, and a new rating of 1490.

Now just 10 rating points are left till the goal of 1500, so tantalizingly close! Will have to travel again, before March 31 ;)

Maybe going to a tournament in Portland this weekend.

Saratoga Springs

The weather in upstate NY was freezing and snowy.  Naomi was the only 3rd grader in section K-6.  

The result: +100 rating points!  Naomi is #18 here:

Agoura Hills

Unlike the freezing and snowy upstate NY, the weather in southern California was very hot.  Naomi and Luda regretted they didn’t take summer clothes.

Instead of playing in Section D and trying to win $1200, Naomi played in higher Section C - to get rating.

See "Class C Section" at -- Naomi had the lowest "settled" rating, but she still got place 15 out of 42, despite the odds.

Here is southern California in all its natural beauty:

Nakamura In Chess4Life

The strongest US chess player Hikaru Nakamura visited the kids in Chess4Life yesterday.  Naomi was ecstatic to meet him, and even got an autograph!

Frequent Flyers

With all this crazy chess travel, we’re now booking many of those chess flights using our "frequent flyer miles":

  • Southwest awards to NY State on March 2-5 (2 free round-trip tickets)
  • Delta SkyMiles + American AAdvantage to All-Girls Nationals in Chicago on April 19-23 (3 free one-way tickets)
  • United MileagePlus to National Elementary Championships in Nashville on May 10-14 (2 free round-trip tickets)

Keeping track of 10 frequent flyer programs for 4 people means managing 40 online accounts, each with its own mileage,  idiosyncratic terminology, different award flight costs and booking rules, expiration surprises and hearing-impaired robotic customer service.

However, if you can handle this complexity and (especially) take advantage of airline-branded credit card offers, the savings can be quite significant.  This helps frequent chess travel, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.  Nobody promised chess parents easy life.